Trinity has dropped twenty places, from 78th to 98th in the QS World University Rankings, released today. While it remains Ireland’s highest-ranked university, the 2016/17 rankings mark the third year in a row that Trinity has dropped, from 61st place in 2013, to 71st in 2014 and 78th in 2015. This represents the largest year-on-year fall for Trinity since 2005, when it fell to its lowest position of 111th in the second year that the rankings were published.
This downward trend is echoed throughout the country, with all but one of Ireland’s eight universities dropping places. NUIG has this year broken into the top 250, climbing from 271st to 249th. Meanwhile, the University of Limerick has fallen out of the top 500, falling from 471st in the 2015/16 rankings.
Irish universities are this year struggling in a number of key metrics used to compile the rankings, with a majority falling in the faculty to student ratio, graduate employability, the international faculty ratio and number of citations per faculty.
Head of Research at the QS Intelligence Unit Ben Sowter has attributed Irish performance in this year’s rankings to long-standing issues with the higher education system in the country, notably a decrease in the number of Irish academics and successive years of cuts to higher education.
“This year’s rankings imply that levels of investment are determining who progresses and who regresses. Institutions in countries that provide high levels of targeted funding, whether from endowments or from the public purse, are rising,” said Sowter, identifying a global trend illustrated by the QS rankings. “While recognising Ireland’s difficulties in recovering from the economic shocks of the previous decade, the effect of seven years of higher education cuts are laid bare by this year’s rankings.”
Third level education in Ireland has seen significant cuts since the beginning of the economic crisis, with state funding for universities being halved in that time. Seven successive years of financial cuts along with a rising student population has led to significant pressure on the sector, with some calling for the introduction of tuition fees to help alleviate the crisis.